Sanford Ltd., New Zealand’s second-biggest fishing company, was fined $1.9 million by a U.S. judge for dumping oil waste at sea and covering up its actions.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington today also put the Auckland-based company on probation for three years. Sanford was convicted in August of conspiracy, presenting false documents and deceiving the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a court filing. The company was acquitted of obstructing justice.
A federal jury found that a Sanford vessel, the San Nikunau, which routinely delivered tuna to American Samoa, had been discharging oily bilge waste into the sea around the island since at least 2007.
The chief engineer of the San Nikunau, James Pogue, was convicted of violating international shipping law for failing to keep an accurate record book and of obstruction of justice. Pogue, who faced a possible prison sentence of 20 years, was ordered jailed for one month and fined $6,000. He was acquitted of directing the crew to dump waste directly into the sea.
The U.S. belongs to an international convention that regulates discharges of oil from ships. The U.S enforces the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships in waters under its jurisdiction, including those around American Samoa and the port of Pago Pago, where the San Nikunau ended its fishing voyages.
The U.S. charged Sanford with telling the San Nikunau’s crew to dump bilge waste directly into the ocean, rather than first passing it through pollution-control equipment, according to the indictment.
The ship’s former chief engineer, Rolando Ong Vano, pleaded guilty April 18 to covering up environmental crimes. In the plea agreement, he said it was routine practice by the company to discharge oily bilge waste into the sea, bypassing cleanup equipment. He admitted to falsifying the oil record book and lying to Coast Guard inspectors, according to court filings.
The case is U.S. v. Sanford Ltd., 11-cr-00352, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).